Some light and some truth but not enough


I blew it big-time. But it was not all my fault. Only God (or Fate...) knows what would have heppend to me if I had had any other trajectory in living at the point in life where I matriculated at Yale than precisely the trajectory I had. It would not likely have been good for me. But what I did have wan't good enough; I needed a lot more and important things different.

Had I gone to any other college, I might have flunked out, or maybe got "B" grades. There are lots of courses I could not have done, due to slow reading speed and other disabilities. Even at Yale, any different year I might not havegot thru. And even in the year I did go there I was placed in a special freshman program I hd not known about in advance, where we had all seminars from tenured faculty and had to write a lot of papers, but not to memorize anything, and there were few enough of us that we were not just members of a herd. So in ways I lucked out.

[I will rework a lot of this page later.] For one thing, I needed to not be graded. To be free to wander around but with empathic suggestions not coerced directions: "Bradford, you don't know about [whatever], but you might be interested to look into it and I (teacher) can help you with it if you are interested. Take it or leave it, it's OK." The humanist architect Louis Kahn's definition of a city (quoting from imperfect memory):

"The village is a place of necessity. The city is a place of desire. It is a place where a small boy, walking from the workshop of one master craftsperson to another mey find something he wants to do for all his life."

That is what I needed. Not assignments, not grades and I also needed intimate appropritae female companionship. I needed a lot of which I got little; and I got a lot of things I did not need.

Courses should have been entirely auditing lectures and seminars without tests or grades and very short or if longer, very few) reading assignments. I needed to be free to think and to "play" (←that word being undertood as joyous cultural srlf-cultivation, not Disneylanding). One specific thing about Yale I missed: I didn't really know about the "secret societes" Skull and Bones would not have been for me, since I am not a monkey. But there was another secret society which I should have at least tried to get into: Scroll and Key, which sounds, in my continuing ignorance, to be humanitic. This is part of one of my biggest failures: I did not "network", so I ended up wasting my life working as a low-level computer programmer to pay the bills.

Evidentiary support for my being able to get value out of auditing courses: I probably got more from just sitting in on Professor Vincent Scully's sometimes histrionic performances in his mass Art History 10 lecture course than I got out of my own Art History I (did we have seminars in that class??? → that's how memorable it was for me). But the rote memorization final exam in Art History !0 would have been harmful to me.

There were two teachers I should have cultivated. One was without comparison in any way: John Wild. The other a long shot and not such a big deal: George Heard Hamilton. John Wild was an existentialist philosopher. Professor Hamilton had been a friend of Marcel Duchamp; I didn't know him at all. I had had trouble generating wordcount for his essays assignments ("Discuss light in the chapel of St. Denis", e.g.): Since I knew and had experienced almost nothing of value, I had nothing of value to write about. If I had got to know him might he personally taught me about Marcel Duchamp and the Société Anonyme? I don't know.

There was a third professor, this time a young Asst. Professor, Robert M. Cook, who liked me. He was an authentic political radical; "intellectually", I soon enough became one too, but I am not into protesting in the street or other "activism".

So I will leave aside all the other possiblities here and just focus on the most important: John Wild. I really should have "cultivated" him. And he might rally have helped me. But, again, I knew almost nothing and didn't have a clue that things might be possible in life of me. People get all worked up about "clebrities" and "important people"; I know I am nothing but needed to be in the company not of famous persons but great minds. John Wild might hve been the key.

Nearly Everyone Gets A's at Yale. Does That Cheapen the Grade?Next

New York imes article on grade inflation at Yale
Bradford McCormick <>
Wed, Dec 6, 2:55 PM (7 days ago)
to president

Respectfully, Prof. Salovey,

I just now encountered the article in The New York Times newspaper: "Nearly Everyone Gets A's at Yale. Does That Cheapen the Grade?" I need to speak up about it.

I graduated in the class of 1968 and my diploma reads "summa cum laude". But I did not get it the hard way. I was highly intelligent but also emotionally (and also physically) fragile. I passionately wanted to learn but course assignments and exams impeded not helped me: If I was doing an assignment or preparing for an exam my time and energy had been diverted away from "giv[ing myself] up to that careful study and investigation which is the proper duty of man".(Francois Rabelais).

(I need to be succinct because your time is valuable.) In my sophomore year I took a philosophy lecture course from John Wild. One session he lectured us kids on human freedom. After the lecture I approached the podium and very politely told him I did not see how I had any freedom since I would have to take an exam at the end of the course. He looked kindly down on me and apologized and told me he "meant no harm". Next term he let me take his graduate seminar for an easy "A". Of all my experience at Yale, John Wild did the most to not only nurture my intellectual life but even my soul (spirit, whatever one wishes to call it). I miss him much.

At the onset of middle age, at age 38 years I sent back to school in a program I felt would be easy (it was), at Teachers College Columbia University. Writing my doctoral (Ed.D.) dissertation was probably the high point of my whole life. My sponsor had literally let me RYO the whole thing; He had no idea what I was doing until I handed him some 250 odd loose pages with even the margins to spec and he rifled thru them for a minute or two and told me to "make copies and we go to the orals".. You would not be surprised the topic was education of psychoanalytic trainees.[ I should have added the UMI number here. One — correct that: I — can alsways— or almost always — do batter... ] I took a course from Prof. Maxine Greene in which, before the class (she had no idea who I was) I went up to her and asked if I could write an essay on a topic tangentially related to the course in which I had a passionate interest, INSTEAD of doing the course work. She immediately told me to go do it. (It did receive an"A+" but that was not important to me: what I learned in writing the paper mattered very much to me).

Some students may benefit from rigorous grading. I wish to testify that there are others who need and will benefit from something different. There is an essay you may know by the Roman Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper: "Leisure, the basis of culture". That is what I always needed and would thrive on. Am I being selfish? Yes. But that kind or learning is what gives me the most to give back to others, too.

When I was at Yale grade inflation was one issue, and the Vietnam War was another. i did not attend my graduation. In my "cap and gown" costume I stood outside the gate to the Old Campus next to the Post Office with a little tin can in my hand and collected from those who did attend donations for Quaker Vietnam War Relief ($130 in the can at the end of the morning).

How devoted to learning was I? For fun I was reading Martin Heidegger's "Being and Time" at the same time I got my draft card (18-11-46-503).

I wanted to make a plea for young persons who are both intelligent and also fragile, of whom I was (and at age 77 years now, remain) one.

If you put up with me this far, thank you for listening. Please let me know if there is anything I might do for yourself or for Yale.

Bradford McCormick, YC '68, Ed.D.


"When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak, for we were not meant to survive." (Audre Lorde, via Marco Romano) Bradford McCormick, Ed.D. / ~

President Peter Salovey
4:54 PM (6 hours ago) [+2023.12.13]
to me

Dear Dr. McCormick,

Thank you for writing to me. I appreciated the opportunity to learn about your experiences what meaningful stories about your time at Yale and beyond. I am grateful to you for sharing this with me.

You have my best wishes for the holidays and coming new year.



An interaction with the Yale Univversity Art Gallery

Some years ago now (+2024.02.04), maybe 3 or 4 years ago, I contacted The Yale University art Gallery, or somebody associated with it, about the possibility of donating the sake cup I own by the Japanese potter Kakumi Seiho (see here). They told me they alrady had 7 pieces by him but that none were on display. I got the impession that if i gave them my piece they would accept it but they had no interest in it or in me or in showing me what they had. It was deflating for me.

+2024.02.20 v044
 PreviousReturn to Table of contents
BMcC signature seal stamp. Modelled on 18th century messenger's letter box in collection of Suntory Museum, Tokyo. Japanese write poems and prayers on slips of paper which they tie into knots like this shape although with longer legs. Prayers are often tied to branches of trees which can look like they are covered with snow. "Symbol of a symbol, image of an image, emerging from the destiny that is sinking into darkness...." (H. Broch, "The Sleepwalkers", p.648) Always remember. Add value. (This image created not later than 21 May 2003)
Invenit et fecit
This page has been validated as HTML 5.